La Trobe expert responds to US debate

It was difficult to know what to expect from the second debate. The past few days have been extraordinary and the debate was necessarily going to be an opportunity to see how Trump would deal with the unprecedented crisis his horrendous comments about women has precipitated.

The leaked video of Trump boasting about sexual assault was rightly the first issue addressed. His response was superficial at best.

His attempts to apologise quickly turned into an incoherent rant about Islamic State. Clinton’s reaction was, by contrast, articulate and scathing of the recent revelations, drawing a link between them and the consistently negative and divisive language that has characterised his campaign.

For much of the debate both candidates attacked each other’s character and temperament. It was a depressing spectacle to observe.

When they did talk about actual policies, a pattern emerged that was similar to the first debate. Trump was at his strongest when talking about working-class struggle and the need to restore manufacturing jobs across the country. This is not because his economic policies are detailed and realistic, but because his recognition of the hardship and fear workers in America feel about the future resonates with many.

On foreign policy, though, Clinton highlighted the vast difference in experience and understanding between the two.

Trump’s comments about Syria – particularly his claim that Russia and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are fighting Islamic State and thus the US needs to work with them – once again demonstrated his deep ignorance of the various conflicts in the Middle East region.

Clinton rightly pointed out that neither Assad nor Vladimir Putin have gone after Islamic State in any serious manner. This is one of the many reasons the US has criticised both the Russian and Syrian leaders.

It is unlikely that this debate will change the minds of either Clinton’s or Trump’s supporters. What remains to be seen is whether the past few days have well and truly destroyed Trump’s hopes for the presidency.

This text was taken from an article which first appeared in The Conversation.

Image: from Wikimedia Commons

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